Background: The present study reviewed the occurrence of gall bladder carcinoma in patients who underwent a cholecystectomy for gallstone disease.
Methods: A retrospective study of demographical and clinical information for patients who underwent a cholecystectomy and operative cholangiogram for gallstones predominantly in three major hospitals located in the northern area of Melbourne was carried out.
Results: Gall bladder carcinomas were observed in 14 patients (3.2%; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.8–5.3%) consisting of 11 women and three men of median age 78.5 years (interquartile range: 77–81) from a series of 439 patients with a male-to-female ratio of 1–2. The results of the present study show that primary carcinoma of the gall bladder in this descriptive retrospective cohort was always associated with single or multiple cholesterol gallstones that were impacting on the gall bladder wall. Cholesterol 'solitaire' gallstones were ovoid in shape with diameters > 3 cm along their longest axis, whereas multiple cholesterol gallstones varied in size and number from two or three large stones (1–2 cm), to numerous smaller stones (variable size to 0.5 cm). No patient with gall bladder carcinoma had either brown or black pigment gallstones.
Conclusion: It is postulated that gall bladder carcinoma may be intimately associated with large or numerous cholesterol gallstones that in the first instance may interfere with the mechanical functioning of the gall bladder. The size as well as the number of gallstones present in the gall bladder may contribute significantly to the promotion of a gallstone filling defect of the gall bladder that may cause chronic mechanical damage to the gall bladder mucosa. The present report supports the hypothesis that gall bladder carcinoma is an age-dependent malignancy, present mostly in women, that may be intimately associated with long-standing benign gallstone disease of the gall bladder.